Sunday, July 18, 2010

Dear Childfreedom...

Dear Readers,

Today I wanted to share an email I received from one of my readers (who gave her permission for me to publish it anonymously).

I sent her a reply (which I will post here as a comment) but thought it would be helpful to her to hear what you have to say as well.

If you have words of wisdom for this reader, please post a comment.

"Hi, I recently discovered your blog and I love it. Very well written posts. I agree with so much! I'm 27 and my husband is 24 and he has never wanted kids and very adamately still doesn't and says he most likely never will (he doesn't like the resposibility, thinks the world is already overpopulated and has a family history of bipolar and skitzophrenia and doesn't want to pass it on). I knew this when we got married and I didn't think I wanted them either so it wasn't a problem. I also have depression and ocd and anxiety and I know my child would probably get it too, especially when combined with his genes. So I was fine with it. Then all of my friends started having babies and started making me feel like I was missing something. I'm an only child, so is my husband.. so I have a small family and not many close friends at the moment either and sometimes worry about the future and not having any kids around to keep me company and/or take care of me. I know those are selfish and stupid reasons to have kids though, because there are plenty of old people who end up alone even though they had children. I agree so much with all the logical reasons not to have kids and the more I think about it, the more sense it makes. I've never even been a motherly person at all, never wanted to hold other's babies the way all the other little girls did when I was growing up. But my question is, how do I get over these feelings that I'm "missing something"? Have you ever experienced that at all? I think its really all created by other people around me and not really coming from myself..I love the lifestyle my husband and I have right now, we can travel, sleep as much as we want, cook grown-up dishes, have time for hobbies, etc. I wouldn't really want all that to change when it comes down to it. But how can I deal with other people rubbing their kids in my face and always talking about how "wonderful" being a parent is? What made me decide to write you today was when I got on facebook one of my old friends who is currently pregnant was saying how she's always had depression and anxiety and now that she's pregnant its really coming out and she needed to get on some medication for it.. and then one of her friends (who I don't know) said: (in part) "I have a very long history of depression, anxiety, and OCD, but since I have had both of my daughters, if you can believe it, I have it all under control, w/o medication or counseling. I guess they make me so happy and make my life feel so fulfilled, plus I am too busy to have problems lol!". Of course this made me feel bad because like I said, I have deppression and ocd as well and it seems like now for some people all of that can be fixed by having a baby. I know its not true though! I just need some reassurance! Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!! Sorry this is so long and thanks so much if you could get through reading it all!

Keep up the great work on the blog!"


Childfreeeee said...

Thanks for your letter. I am flattered by your kind comments about the blog and also honored that you are asking for my advice.

This is my advice to you: everything one chooses in life results in the sacrifice of something else. If you choose not to have kids, you WILL be missing lots of things, but what people don't tell you is that most of what you will be missing are things you would rather do without in the first place. You will miss making your partner #2 (instead of #1) in your life. You will miss sleepless nights. You will miss financial strain. You will miss having no time for yourself and running around like a headless chicken 24 hours a day. You get the picture.

My second piece advice to you is to think carefully about what PARENTS are missing by having kids. Parental losses are regrets are a taboo subject, but carefully observe the people around you who have kids and notice all they are missing out on in life and giving up. All the dreams and aspirations you and your boyfriend have - you are free to do anything you want in life, anytime you want. You can create any life you want and change it on a dime if you please. Parents have none of that.

Another thing I would say to you is to realize that having kids is no guarantee of anything. I just got a letter from another reader who said she works in a nursing home and out of all the residents, only ONE of them has children that visit. So much for kids ensuring you will have someone to take care of you in old age.

The biggest thing to remember is that our culture is saturated with messages glorifying parenthood. Even when research comes out showing that parents are less happy than non-parents, the media tries to twist it into a positive spin on parenthood. It takes a lot of internal fortitude to resist these messages, so keep connecting with others of a like mind and you will feel less alone.

One place to start is Look for a childfree group near your town, or check out No Kidding, which is another childfree social group that has chapters all over the country. When you meet others who come from a similar frame of mind, you will feel less alone.

WhiteRaven Slade said...

Dear Reader,

I know that what a friend-of-a-friend said about her depression being cleared up by having a baby affected you. Seemed like a magic cure-all didn't it? But your friend's friend is in for a surprise. The only way she's going to be able to keep those "good vibes" (which not everyone gets) by eventually having another baby...and another....and another.

And all these babies babies babies eventually become toddlers, kids, then teens. And I'm very sorry, I've NEVER heard anyone rhapsodize that their teenager rescued then FROM depression.

Balance your friend's friend supposedly (no...I don't totally believe her) euphoric post-birth experience with the woman who goes "nuts" and drowns her kid in the bathtub.

And most importantly...listening to friends needs to take a major backseat to listening to your partner. You know, the guy you've chosen to make a life with? Sure your friends will say "he will change his mind once you are pregnant", and they are right. His mind will most likely change about YOU. I've seen the guys whose partners got pregnant without discussing it first...sure they put on the nice happy face in public (cause we are conditioned socially to behave "appropriately" regarding children). But the resentment will resurface in a few years. And it can get miserable.

Stop listening to friends regarding babies. That kind of thing is between you and your partner, and that is IT.

Izzy said...

Wow.. I completely understand. My DH has always been if we have kids, we have them, if not, that's fine. For a couple of years I was on the baby track after we got married, even tried fertility drugs, no success. Found out that Dh has a zero sperm count. We both looked at each other and said ok, we gave it our best try, it's not going to happen, now we can move on with the rest of our life.

That being said, I occasionally get the feeling that i'm missing out. Mainly when one of my friends is pregnant and right now, all my friends are either pregnant, or just had a baby. Very hard to find people who don't have kids to hang out with.

I just try to focus on the good in our lives. When people ask why we don't have kids when we obviously love our dogs so much and treat them like children, I just answer that you can't kennel a kid and go on a three week vacation, which DH & I just did. We realize now that this was the right choice for us.

Surfie said...

Very good advice, Childfree. I have a feeling her friends are not being fully honest with her. I can't imagine having children would be the magical cure for someone's OCD, depression, and anxiety. I would be more likely to believe that it would make those things worse, because I would feel so much less in control. And then there is also post-partum depression and post-partum psychosis. There is a very real chance that it could actually make it worse! It seems to me that the reader is just feeling lonely and left out since all her friends are now mothers, and it is making her doubt herself. Peer pressure! I think if she follows your advice and makes some friends in the childfree social circles, she'll realize she is making the right choice for herself and it will rebuild her confidence in her decision.

I wish her the best of luck!!

CeCe said...

Great letter and great post. My big sis is pregnant with her first and I have a cousin pregnant with a 2nd just to name a few. They both wanted children so badly. Part of my wonders why and the other part says if so many people want it so bad there has got to be something to it right? Perhaps something I am missing out on? So I can totally identify with the letter writer. I have the same nagging thought in the back of my head and I really wish it would go away and leave me in peace with my decision not to have kids right now or maybe ever.

sara star said...

Do not let anyone convince you that having children will cure your depression.

One person in hundreds might make that claim. But for the rest...

a) it makes it worse
b) doesn't affect it either way,
c) or starts it when it wasn't there before.

This person could easily be bipolar and having a temporary, but semi-sustained high. She could have changed her diet when she had kids, maybe getting more exercise. Breast feeding could be upping her happy hormones. Any number of temporary or unrelated causes could be affecting her.

In your situation, I would get a change of scenery in addition to talking to my medical/psych provider about adjustments to my treatment. If things like this are affecting you, maybe you have changed a bit too (chemically, mentally) and need a different approach.

When talking with your counselor, plan approaches for making new friends, ideas for vacations or local attractions to help you stay active.

Childfree adults know and accept that they won't have "their" kids taking care of them. Whereas parents assume they will. Since we are not deluded about it, we can plan now for a better future for ourselves. Build a better safety network. Invest especially in younger friends and pick out our own retirement homes and nursing homes years ahead of needing them. based on what we want and can afford.

Want to have a retirement by the sea? A nursing home room with a view and artistic activities? You choose not someone else to make that happen.

More older parents are realizing they don't want their kids deciding things for them, too late. More older parents are still caring for their middle aged children's financial crises, as they watch their nest ages shrink.

Keep in mind your future is in your hands!

That is a good feeling to me.

Anonymous said...

It can be really difficult not o doubt yourself when those around you extol the virtues of having children. Just remember that you're not alone and that there other gals around just like you - if only we were all a little geographically closer so we could have a big chat (or a vent!) about this stuff.

I couldn't agree more with this quote from the original comment "When you meet others who come from a similar frame of mind, you will feel less alone."

Diane said...

No way does having kids cure anxiety or depression! I'm sure in most cases it makes it worse. I have both that are fairly mild but I know that if you threw all the responsibilities of parenting on me I would go nuts!

I second the suggestion to try meetup for a childfree group, or see if there is a No Kidding chapter near you. You also might want to join ivillage, which has 2 great childfree message boards.

Unknown said...

One suggestion to help give the author that feeling of enjoying the "wonders" of parenting is to get involved in the lives of other kids. The author mentions a small family, so perhaps nieces and nephews are out, but what about mentoring? Big Brothers/Big Sisters? School or museum volunteering?

It can be really rewarding, and you can develop life-long relationships in some cases. Plus, you're not The Parent, so they really do interact with you in a different way. And yes, you can then get back to the rest of your life without the full responsibility of parenting! I find this type of relationship incredibly fulfilling. I have kids in my life from 3yrs to 21yrs old - I get the drawings on the fridge, the school photos, the hugs, AND I get my own, happy, childfree life!

[A sidenote: I find that a lot of those in-your-face parents who go on and on about fulfilling themselves through their kids will often quiet right down when you start bragging about your Little Sister who just read her first book all the way through!]

M said...

Well...this is an interesting question. Since this is a child free blog, most of our opinions may be swayed in a certain direction. :)

You sound like an astute person who thinks things through, and I appreciate that. So many have kids because that's what they should do, but don't think about the ramifications. They end up being miserable, making their children miserable and not really enjoying life very much.

Here is really what it boils down to: How much of a commitment and or risk are you willing to take?

I like to use the analogy of becoming a doctor, with a very involved specialty, like neurology.
That's a good 13 years of your life you would commit to something.

Very stressful, no life outside of studying or the hospital, no social life, deep in debt usually, and no guarantee if you will be happy at the end of the road.

Is it a gamble? Oh yes. Could you be happy? Maybe. One would hope so...I know a lot of docs who don't like what they do, but feel compelled to remain in their chosen profession because of the investiture.

It's not exactly the same as having a child, because you can stop at any time during med school, or aren't like that. It's a lifetime commitment.

My point is this: if you proffered the above scenario to the average person, they would balk and say "hell no, that's too long! The time and money involved is too high!"

Yet most are cavalier about having kids...they think about what their kid would look like (undoubtedly handsome); the gratification from having a family (nights spent picking up vomit maybe, or the shrill of a baby sister whose big brother just clocked her over the head with a Thomas the train); they fawn over names ("Should we name it after my uncle??? or just pick something out of the weird baby name book like Guava Starchaser?") and don't stop to think about the long haul. It's probably really a biological mechanism ensuring the species survives.

Whether a lot of them consider the huge gamble they are taking is not evident to me. You would have better luck at a craps table.

Some are willing to make the sacrifice to leave their genes on earth..however truly unrewarding it is...and it's a good thing some of them do, otherwise, humans would cease to be.

But it's not the only contribution a person can have to the planet. And it doesn't denote a higher's just more culturally accepted, coddled, and supported. Other people don't get that support, like say, neurologists. :)

After considering all of this, and the desire is still there, then you may be on to something.

Having children is a much larger commitment than becoming a doctor...hands down. Yet most people do it for less than sensible reasons and wonder why they are so freaking miserable.

When you consider the possible ramifications of said commitment on your health, your relationships, and what you may (or may not, it's a genetic lottery really) be passing on, you are right to have pause.

No one can make the decision for's between you and your partner.

Just don't bargain, talk yourself into it for the wrong reasons, or gloss over the glaring obvious....follow your gut and you won't go wrong.

Good luck.

Fanboy Wife said...

My husband and I don’t want kids, and were not close to our families, but I’m really not worried about being alone in the future. I figure we’ll have our friends to keep us company and their children to spoil.

One thing that I have found really comforting is making friends with people who are childfree. (Most of these women are past the age of having children too.) It’s reassuring to know likeminded people and see that they are leading happy and fulfilling lives. They have more time and money to be adventurous and happy, which is what I want.

Go out and make some new friends. Join an orchestra, take a dance class, or find a book club.

T said...

Having children: All the cool kids are doing it!

Sorry, I'm just being facetious. Pressure from friends is definitely not a reason to bring a dependant-for-18-yrs (or longer) child into your life.

Go with your gut and don't have them. If you or your husband change your minds, you can always adopt or foster.

Also, if you need what I like to call birth control, go to a child-friendly restaurant during their busy time. Works like a charm.

charmed said...

don't let other people pressure you into doing something you are unsure about. I personally know someone who said her anxiety got worse after she had a baby and she had to get on medication for it, and before that she had been able to handle without medication. so having a baby is not any kind of magical cure.

If you love the lifestyle you have right now and don't want to change it, then having kids is a bad idea b/c they change your whole life.

I think sometimes when people rub their babies in your face they want you to have some to so your kids and theirs will be the same age and so they will know more parents. My best friend had a baby and no one else around her was pregnant and that made her feel kinda lonely b/c she felt like she didn't have anyone around who really knew what she was going through and was going through it with her.

if people are rubbing their babies in your face, you can do the same thing. It might not seem all that mature but it works sometimes. Just talk about all the stuff you love about being CF. Long naps, free time, vacations, plenty of uninterrupted time with your husband.

Childfreeeee said...

Yes! Just rub your childfreedom in their face. That will really throw them off guard.

Spectra said...

Anyone that says that having kids miraculously cures your depression/OCD/etc. raises red flags to me. My mother had horrific PPD and my MIL (who is bipolar) also had lots of issues with post partum psychosis (similar to what that Yates woman had) and neither of them really "like" kids. My husband and I don't really "like" kids much, either. Actually, most parents we know got that way because they didn't use birth control and got knocked up. I'm 100% sure that if my parents and my inlaws had done a modicum of research before having kids, neither of them probably would have had them.